Resilient Systems to Fight Deforestation

As we’re chopping 18.7 million acres of forest each year, the equivalent of 27 soccer fields every minute, the earth suffers from heavy losses in biodiversity and its ability to absorb our CO2 footprint. Though even with multidisciplinary technologies, like blockchain and artificial intelligence, we can’t seem to stop it or even slow it down.

I am a practical guy. I believe in technology to solve problems, locally as well as globally. In this short essay, I share with you my first draft of a possible solution to the problem described above.

Depleting the lungs of the earth. Source: Futurism

It begins with concept Nature 2.0, in which a new perspective on ecosystems is proposed. Approximately 8.7 million species interact daily with nature without the concept of ownership and this goes fairly well. The major problems we face today — global warming, depletion of resources, world hunger/poverty — are ownerless, but the consequences are interconnected and harm us all in the end. The human species is familiar with the concept of ownership. But what if we could implement a mechanism, one inspired by nature, that can fight these problems without having an owner? A self-sustaining ecosystem, ownerless and without conflict of interest.

The concept I’d like to propose is inspired by the self-owned forest of Terra0. This forest, located in Germany, has no owner and keeps itself alive by selling its wood to the highest bidder. To do so, the forest must have some kind of mechanism deciding which trees are allowed to be chopped down and which ones must remain untouched without involvement of manipulation. Therefore a blockchain is in place. It’s connected to a drone that flies through the woods once in a while, no humans involved. The drone takes photographs of the trees to decide to be able to give its verdict. The blockchains’s role is to construct the trade with the highest bidder.

Such a mechanism already works without an owner and has proven to be socially and economically beneficial. Deforestation, on the other hand, is a slightly more difficult problem. In most cases, the forest is already gone or located in very fertile places, like the Amazone or Mangrove, where farmer have a high incentive to reuse land. The objective of the mechanism could also be to prevent theft and win back the land.

How? By tokenizing the land. Owners of deforested land can claim their land using a particular blockchain. They get a random hash from the system which they have to layout in big numbers on their land, or, even better sow as grass. Satellites are used to identify the hash and confirm ownership. Once confirmed, the farmer now is obliged to grow trees here. An AI, located in the satellite, checks if the land indeed is used for trees. If the trees are still present when the satellite photographs the last, the farmer gets rewarded. These rewards are initially funded by charity, for example, but I think also a self-sustaining system like discussed in the example of Terra0 could be applicable here.

Fighting deforestation by tokenizing the land

Technologies like Blockchain, AI, satellite imagery are already at close reach and ready to use. However, this idea is a diamond in the rough and needs some love to refine it and actually make it work. It has the potential to become highly scalable by design.

To close off, I would like to invite you to share your thoughts, suggestions and ideas. As said, I am a practical guy, capable of realizing this idea. The 11th of April 2019 I will participate in the worlds’ biggest blockchain and AI hackathon in the city of Groningen, together with a team of brilliant developers. Goal: bringing this idea to life, and to start building it.

For now, I listed some challenges that need consideration:

  • How to make the system self-sustaining without money from charity or funding?
  • How to make the system work for non-deforested land? How can landowners claim this area?
  • How to deal with forest areas that aren’t owned by anyone but have a high risk of being chopped down?

Now is the time to start bringing theories into practices, before it’s too late.